The Seljuk Han of Anatolia
SULTAN HAN KAYSERI
sculpted fan in portal entryway
Kiosk mescit mosque in courtyard
elaborate carved ribbon of dragons on kiosk mosque arches
Steps leading to roof terrace in the northwest corner
eastern courtyard cells
Iwan of western courtyard cells
axonometric drawing by A. Gabriel
axonometric drawing by Mahmut Akok
This han is located 45 km northeast of Kayseri on the Sivas Road in the village of Tuzhisar. The han is on the older Sivas road that was the major route linking Konya, Kayseri and Sivas to the east (Iraq and Iran). This road has now been replaced by a more modern highway.
Palaz or Palas Sultan Han
Tuzhisar Sultan Han
Kayseri-Bunyan Sultan Han
The inscriptions over the main and courtyard doors are now lost, so dating is estimated by comparison with the Sultan Han Aksaray, which probably preceded it.
Alaeddin Keykubad I (1220-37)
Alaeddin Keykubad I
Covered with open courtyard (COC)
Covered section smaller than the courtyard
Covered section with central aisle and 2 aisles on each side
7 bays of vaults
The han faces south. It is the second largest han in Turkey, and is one of the most spectacular and striking hans of the entire Middle East. One of the most luxurious inns known, it was the five-star "Hilton" of its day.
There are 6 corner towers and 9 side towers on the exterior walls, which give the appearance of a fortress. The walls are made of limestone, very finely cut, and include in parts blocks of white limestone. There are lion-faced water spouts on the walls and the plain towers are of varying design.
Portal and Entryway:
The entry door is offset to the east, and is the only entry to the han. It is flanked with cylindrical columns with square bases.
On each side of the entry passageway are two vaulted rooms, which probably served as the guards rooms. There are also the remains of a staircase in the western guard room which led up to the roof terrace.
At the entrance passageway is a vault with pendentives and a half-dome. A star with 4 branches is formed by the intersecting lines of the intrados.
There is a stone inscription on the portal which provides the name of the architect, Yadigar.
The entrance passageway opens onto a vast square courtyard, with 2 rows of 7 vaults on the east and 1 row of 7 vaults on the western side of the courtyard. The arched cells on the eastern side are covered with barrel vaults and rest on 2 rows of pillars. They probably served as both a loading area and stables.
The western cells (to the right upon entering) are doubled with a wing of rooms covered by barrel vaults. The front part of these cells house a bath complex, of irregular plan, comprising 5 rooms with domes and vaults. The first room is the dressing room, the second is the domed bathing area with basins, including the tepidarium and caldarium sections, as well as toilets. The cistern of the bath house, heated from below, is rectangular in shape covered by a barrel vault.
The other cells on this side were used for lodging people and perhaps
animals. The open cells on the opposite side had the same purpose,
but were probably used more in the summer.
A monumental door with a high arch leads to the hall. It has lateral niches, an arched vault with stalactites, above which is an archivolt with a broken arch. The door is typical of the traditional Seljuk design. The face is decorated with fine geometrical arabesques.
The large hall is entirely covered in vaults and measures 42.10 long and 29.15m wide. It rests on 24 pillars. It consists of one principal aisle, 5.95m wide, and which is higher than the other vaults, and two symmetrical side aisles, each with 7 vaults covered in broken barrel vaults.
There are windows at 4m high in each of the bays of the covered hall.
The area had a raised platform to separate the animals from the humans,
functioning much like a haha wall in a garden. The animals remained in the
space closest to the side walls, and the middle was reserved for the travelers
and communal functions.
A dome on pendentives is located over the central aisle, and its oculus measures 6 m in width.
A kiosk mosque stands in the middle of the courtyard, raised on 4 piers. It is square in plan, measuring 7.90m on each side. It is 2 storeys high, with a double corbelled staircase built flush into the northern side, leading up to the muezzins platform and the undecorated prayer room. This prayer room is square in plan, covered by a barrel vault, and lit by 2 side windows. The mihrab is on the southern side.
The lower stones are of ashlar construction and the upper stones are of granite with some
marble pieces interspersed among them.
There is a giant snake (or dragon) motive on the mosque's arches: two abstractly-rendered serpent heads meet at the top of the arch.
The decoration of the mosque shows expert stone carving. It comprises
geometrical motives, meanders, polygons and rosettes is extremely precise and of
fine workmanship. There is a magnificent Greek key decoration on the door to the
As mentioned above, the mosque arches are decorated with a stunning, stylized ribbon ending with confronting snake's heads.
Decorative elements include arabesques, crescents, dragons, trelliswork, swastikas, Syrian knots, meanders, arched bricks, lambrequins and rope work.
Historical note: The historian Aqsarayi mentions that the Mamluk Sultan Baybars fought a battle with the Seljuks near this han han during his 1277 campaign in Anatolia against the Mongols.
Total area: 3900m2
Area of hall: 1290 m2
Area of courtyard: 2100m2
It is somewhat smaller that the Sultan Han Aksaray.
STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE
The han was well-restored in 1951, and is in good condition. It is now run as a cultural site by the Turkish government and can be visited (guardian's offices are next door). It was again restored in 2007.
Acun, pp. 173-193 (includes extensive bibliography in Turkish); 460-461; 463; 535.
Aqsarayi, p. 137.
Bektaş, pp. 114-121.
Erdmann, pp. 90-97, no. 27.
Gabriel, pp. 93-98, pl. XXVIII, XXIX, XXX, fig 60-63.
Hillenbrand, fig. 6.44, p. 552; 6.45, p. 349; plate 250, p. 347; plate 251, p. 348.
Karpuz, Kuş, Dıvarcı and Şimşek (2008), vol. 1, pp. 473-474.
Rice, p. 206.
carving on the interior face of entry portal
arch on western side of portal
restoration and original stonework of exterior facade
arch on eastern side of portal
polygon carving on side panels of portal
detail of polygonal pattern
kiosk mosque, seen from southwest
detail of dragon heads at summit of mosque arches
Lantern dome of covered section
portal to covered section
lion's head waterspout sculpture on side of western courtyard door
lion head waterspout
detail of arcs of iwan of western side
detail of upper edge carving of courtyard walls
stone bearing the name of the archtect: "Master Yadigar fecit"
transcription by Halit Erketlioğlu, as seen in Kayseri Kitabeleri, 2001, p. 48
for a series of photos of the han taken in 1961 and 1963 by John Ingham, click below:
The poet and historian Muhsin Ilyas Subaşi relates
the following anecdote relative to the Kayseri Sultan Han in his book on the
history of Kayseri (Dünden Bugüne Kayseri, Kayseri: Kivilcim Yayinevi,
2003; p. 92-94.) He has also written a poem to the han.
bellowed the Sultan to his Grand Vizier. And so in this way was the order
given to the Grand Vizier to oversee the construction of a series of caravansarais between the
larger cities of the kingdom, in order to ensure the safety and comfort of the
travelers on the roads in the lands under his charge.
One spring evening, the Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad gathered his viziers
together in his palace at Keykubadiyye. He explained to them the responsibilities
he expected of them concerning the services and operations of these hans.
MUHSİN İLYAS SUBAŞI
How many caravans have entered your doors with anticipation
How many voyagers have left their dreams in the heart of your courtyard
The stars kiss your forehead each night
What stories do the roads passing in front of you tell?
Homesickness and the melancholy of exile
Are loaded on your backs each day of the year
The past and the future hide in the shadows of your monumental portal
Which welcomes and bids adieu each day to a thousand desires...
The Seljuks placed their very souls in your domes
Travelers have filled your halls with their trusting faith
So it was that your destiny grew,
But now, your visitors are none!
-Katharine Branning Hanımefendiye;
Kaç kervan umutla girer kapından,
Seyyahlar gönlünde hülyaya dalar.
Yıldızlar her gece öper alnından,
Ne söyler önünden geçen bu yollar?
Sıla özlemini, gurbet hüznünü,
Yüklenir sırtına yılın her günü,
Saklarken taç kapın yarını-dünü,
Her gün bin umutla boşalır, dolar
Selçuklu kubbene gönlünü koymuş,
Yolcular sofranda umuda doymuş,
Senin de kaderin demek ki buymuş,
Artık ne gelenin, ne gidenin var!..
MUHSİN İLYAS SUBAŞI
©2001-2013, Katharine Branning; All Rights Reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced in any form without written consent from the author.